Senator Edgardo Angara has advised government authorities that caution must be exercised amid the finger-pointing over the reported ramming of a local fishing boat by an alleged Chinese vessel north of the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal.
“We should first verify if China was indeed responsible for this incident to avoid inflaming territorial tensions which could dampen our efforts to resolve the issue diplomatically,” said Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, on Tuesday.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) initially reported that one of the rescued fishermen claimed a Chinese vessel rammed their boat. The information could not be verified, however, as the fisherman did not see the vessel’s name or those aboard it.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard refuted the report saying that it was a Hong Kong-registered ship named MV Peach Mountain that accidentally bumped the fishing boat.
A Filipino fisherman died over the incident while three were rescued and four others are still missing.
Investigation and rescue operations are still continuing.
“Whoever is answerable for the death of the Filipino fisherman must be held liable. We cannot allow anyone, even China, to bully us in our own territory,” said Angara, who earlier revealed that ancient maps prove that the Scarborough Shoal belongs to the Philippines, disproving the claim of China.
“Nonetheless, we must not give up on the possibility of resolving this territorial dispute — and others we are embroiled in — in a peaceful manner, without jeopardizing our country’s best interests,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan said a third party should be involved whether both countries are following agreement to pull out of the disputed Panatag Shoal.